Right-to-Counsel Program

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Right-to-Counsel program?

The Right-to-Counsel program is a legal assistance program for tenants facing eviction. 

What is the purpose and goal of the Right-to-Counsel program?

National and local statistics show that eviction disproportionately impacts persons of color, women, and families with children. The purpose of the Right-to-Counsel program is to provide legal assistance to low-to-moderate income tenants facing eviction proceedings. The goal of the program is to divert evictions which, in turn, will ensure housing stability by reducing the likelihood of housing displacement and potential homelessness. 

How and why was this program developed?

The City of Winston-Salem leads a community collaborative, the Eviction Diversion Network (EDN), which consists of tenant-focused and landlord-focused organizations that provide residential housing programs, and/or services. National data suggest that approximately 90% of landlords have legal representation during eviction cases in court. In comparison, less than 10% of tenants have legal representation. The EDN collaborates to track local residential eviction trends, combine resources to provide relief resulting from eviction, and identify strategies to mitigate or eradicate unnecessary evictions. Organizations represented in the EDN include the City of Winston-Salem, Forsyth County Department of Social Services, Forsyth County Clerk of Court, Legal Aid, the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem (HAWS), Financial Pathways of the Piedmont, Crisis Control Ministries, the Piedmont Triad Apartment Association, the Winston-Salem Regional Association of Realtors, United Way, Housing Justice Now, Wake Forest University School of Law, and Partners Health.

Evictions can remain on a person’s credit records for seven years. To balance access to legal representation in landlord-tenant eviction cases, the EDN identified a Right-to-Counsel program as a national best practice and recommended it for Winston-Salem. The City of Winston-Salem partnered with Legal Aid to fund the program through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

How does the Right-to-Counsel program work?

You may contact the City of Winston-Salem Human Relations/Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department to initiate a landlord/tenant eviction complaint.   If you believe that you meet the low-to-moderate federal income standards, you will be referred to Legal Aid for further eligibility determination for the Right-to-Counsel program. You may also contact Legal Aid’s intake personnel for Right-to-Counsel program legal assistance. If you do not meet the low-to-moderate federal income requirements, Legal Aid will refer tenants to the Human Relations/Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department for possible mediation assistance.

Is this program for tenants who rent federally-subsidized housing, as well as private housing?

This program is for tenants residing in federally-subsidized or private housing who meet Legal Aid’s residency, jurisdictional, and income requirements.

How does this program benefit landlords?

Landlords benefit from the program because they will not have to spend money to file an action in court to initiate the eviction process.  

Who leads the Right-to-Counsel program?

The Right-to-Counsel program is administered through a partnership between the City of Winston-Salem and Legal Aid. Legal Aid provides attorneys and paralegals who work directly with qualifying tenants to mediate and/or litigate eviction cases.

What is the cost for the legal assistance provided through the Right-to-Counsel program?

The program is free to all eligible tenants.

What are the eligibility requirements to qualify for Right-to-Counsel program assistance?

To qualify for legal assistance in the Right-to-Counsel program, tenants seeking eviction diversion must meet Legal Aid’s income, residency, and jurisdictional qualifications.

How do you request assistance from the Right-to-Counsel program?

Please contact the Human Relations/Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department at City Link 311 or NikkiW@legalaidnc.org at Legal Aid for assistance. Also, as of January 31, 2023, Legal Aid began an intake clinic for eviction cases in the lobby of DSS, on Tuesday mornings, from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Eviction diversion cases are also referred to the Winston-Salem Legal Aid Office through its medical-legal partnership with Wake Forest University.